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  • Right-wing media botch GAO report to push myth that taxpayers are funding abortion

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On March 6, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an updated report about the use of federal funds by Planned Parenthood and several other health care providers for providing “preventive, reproductive, and diagnostic health care services in the United States or abroad.” Predictably, even though the report didn’t show any wrongdoing by the provider, right-wing media used its release to promote the longstanding myth that Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer funding to support its abortion services.

    According to the March 2018 GAO report, investigators sought to answer how much federal funding had been granted to federally qualified health centers, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America between 2013 and 2015, as well as how those organizations or networks had spent the funds. Right-wing media quickly seized on the data to push the myth of so-called “taxpayer-funded” abortion, even though the report showed no such thing.

    Even before the GAO’s most recent report came out, right-wing media have frequently claimed that U.S. taxpayers fund the provision of abortion services. In reality, under the Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion is prohibited except in cases of rape or incest or if the life of the mother is at risk. Although Planned Parenthood receives funds to support non-abortion health services, the allocations aren’t a blank check for the organization to spend as it pleases. Indeed, just like any other health care provider -- including the other providers listed in the GAO’s March 2018 report -- Planned Parenthood is reimbursed by the government for the specific non-abortion services it provides to low-income patients via programs like Medicaid. In many other cases, funds that are not reimbursed in this way are specifically allocated to cover a narrow set of health outcomes, such as HIV prevention.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media pushed their misleading reading of the report within their own echo chamber to allege wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. In order to make this point, many outlets ignored the reality that the allocated funding did not support abortion services. For example, in a March 8 article, Breitbart reported that the GAO report had shown that “federal and state taxpayers provided $1.5 billion in funding to abortion providers over a three-year period,” yet it failed to note that none of these funds supported abortion services. This tactic was copied by Newsmax, Washington Free Beacon, Townhall, OneNewsNow, and The Daily Signal, each of which repeated the implication that the money went to abortions. Some outlets went a step further in their allegations, arguing that even if the funding allocated wasn’t for abortion services, it would inevitably be used to support abortions. In one example, LifeSiteNews wrote, “Pro-lifers note that money is fungible, meaning that public funding Planned Parenthood uses for approved purposes frees funds from other sources to be spent on abortions.” The Federalist claimed that such “funds are fungible” because when “an abortion provider gets its hands on government money, it controls how that money is spent.”

    This narrative culminated in a March 12 appearance by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. In the segment, host Tucker Carlson and Black each lambasted anti-choice legislators for failing to strip Planned Parenthood’s funding by making a number of inaccurate allegations about the way the organization used taxpayer funds. In one instance, Black claimed that it was inappropriate for “taxpayer dollars to be going to abortion,” saying that the funding was “set up for family planning” but “abortion is not family planning, it’s family destruction.”

    The GAO's findings rebut the right-wing argument that the federal funding Planned Parenthood received supported the provision of abortion services. For example, in a chart listing the programs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funded at Planned Parenthood, there is no allocation that would include abortion services:

    Although right-wing media may be suggesting that the allocations for “Family planning services” or the “Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Program” could include support for abortion, a review of each program in the government’s Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance refutes this claim. Furthermore, the GAO not only reviewed the financial documents of Planned Parenthood and all of its affiliates, but also sought additional documentation and audit information.

    In other words, given the level of scrutiny applied to both the allocation and the expenditure of funds, it is highly improbable money allocated for other uses was spent on abortion care. Once again, the frenzy drummed up by right-wing media appears to be supported with only spin, and no substance.

  • Trump's trans military ban eschews years of research in favor of junk science from a hate group

    ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on July 26 that he would reinstate a ban on transgender individuals serving in the United States military, citing “tremendous medical costs” and “disruption.” The announcement came just two days after anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council published a report on the issue -- which was parroted by right-wing media -- that stated the projected costs of trans-inclusive military service would amount to 8 times higher than previous estimates. FRC’s projections run counter to the large body of research and years of analysis that was used to inform then-President Barack Obama’s decision to allow transgender people to serve openly in the armed forces.

  • Right-wing media hype flawed report on illegal voting pushed by serial conservative misinformers

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Conservative media are reporting on a study claiming that thousands of illegal votes have been cast in Virginia since 1988. However, the study's authors have reportedly used “unreliable methodology” before, its findings go against those of several other studies and experts on voter fraud, and a person inaccurately targeted in it has called it a “gross misrepresentation of the facts.” Additionally, the study was put out by groups known for spreading conspiracy theories and fables about voter fraud and intimidation and which have previously used dubious methodologies in their studies.

  • Here’s why media should steer clear of Trump’s bogus Paris agreement talking points

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump defended his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement with bogus and easily discredited talking points that have long been touted by right-wing media. Outlets covering Trump’s decision to shirk American climate commitments should avoid repeating the White House’s misinformation.

  • Newsmax CEO Embarrasses Himself While Denying Newsmax Reported On Trump Meeting With Russian Ambassador

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC host Chris Matthews pressed Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy about a Newsmax report on President Donald Trump meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in April 2016. Ruddy repeatedly attempted downplay his own outlets report, claiming that the Newsmax report was probably a “wire report” republished on Newsmax. 

    Matthews pushed back on Ruddy’s denials by showing the article in question, which was titled “Putin pleased with Trump,” on screen and pointing out that it was “a byline piece, not a wire.” From the March 3 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball:

    CHRIS MATTHEWS (HOST): What is your reporting at Newsmax tell you about Trump's relationship with the Russians during the campaign? What do you have?

    CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: Well, you know, you and I both know, we’ve covered a lot of campaigns --

    MATTHEWS: He says he’s had no contacts. Well, you’ve covered it. What contacts has he had with the Russians during the campaign according to your news organization?

    RUDDY: Well, look, when he gave his foreign policy speech in Washington the Russian ambassador sat in the front row. This is not unusual for a political campaign to have dealings with foreign diplomats and officials. It happens all the time. He was very open about that he wanted to reset the relationship with Russia.

    MATTHEWS: Sure, but he said that -- look at a couple of things here.

    According to a report in your Newsmax Trump met with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign. According to Newsmax, your organization, Trump met with Sergey Kislyak himself, the Russian ambassador to the United States at a VIP reception along with three other foreign ambassadors.  Newsmax reports that the meeting came during the foreign policy speech, as you said he gave in April. What do you make of his denial he had no relations with the Russians at all? He’s given a blanket denial.

    RUDDY: Well, again, he gave a speech where the Russian ambassador showed up so it’s a little hard to say that he had --

    MATTHEWS: You said meeting.

    RUDDY: Well, I don’t believe, and again --

    MATTHEWS: Well your reporting was that it’s a meeting.

    RUDDY: Do you know, we both have been in politics, you know how many hundreds or thousands of people you meet in a political campaign.

    MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no. You said it was a meeting. I’m just asking you was it a meeting or wasn’t a meeting? If it was a meeting, why has Trump denied it?

    [...]

    There's a conflict there between your reporting of a meeting and him saying it's a ruse.

    RUDDY: We pick up a lot of wire stories at Newsmax and there’s a lot of reports on Newsmax, so if there was an official meeting with the Trump campaign, I don’t believe we’ve ever reported that.

    MATTHEWS: We just read your wire -- I know what you reported, we just read it. Does that conflict with what Trump just said there?

    [...]

    I want you to tell me what your news agencies reported, and whether it’s true or not. Was there a meeting between Trump and the Russian ambassador Kislyak or wasn't there? Because Trump denies it.

    RUDDY: Well, you should ask his campaign. MSNBC has reporters at the White House. Go ask them tomorrow about it. I'm not representing the Trump campaign. I don't see anything wrong if he did have the meeting. He wanted to reset the relationship, I think that's a positive thing.

    MATTHEWS: Then why is he acting like he didn’t? I agree with you. By the way, I don't think it proves anything that he met with the Russians. The question out there, in everybody’s mind is we know the Russians were involved in helping him win the election, because they wanted to beat Hillary. We understand that. That's a fact and there have been a series of meetings that have been disclosed between his people and the Russian ambassador which they never told us about until we dug it up.So there’s a reasonable progression here of information and it’s not coming from Trump, or from you, but it did come, ironically, from your news agency when you reported about a meeting last April between Trump and the Russian ambassador. And now you're pulling away from what you reported in April.

    [...]

    The byline piece in Newsmax, which we all read of course, was written by Sandy Fitzgerald, and it was a byline piece not a wire. Just want to make that clear. That was in April.

    RUDDY: It was probably a wire story that we probably picked up.

  • Mainstream Media Echoes Pro-Trump Fringe, Credit Trump For New GM Jobs That Were “Planned For Months”

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    General Motors (GM) announced a $1 billion investment in US jobs and factories that it stressed at the time was “part of the normal process” and had “been planned for months.” Nonetheless, several major media outlets gave credit to Trump in either their headlines or first few paragraphs, downplaying that the decision was previously planned. Many pro-Trump outlets earlier did the same or framed the decision entirely as a Trump-influenced effort, some by referencing a tweet Trump wrote in early January in which he threatened a “big border tax” if GM sells Mexican-made cars in the United States.

  • Media Debunk Pence’s Smear Of Clinton’s Reproductive Rights Positions

    In The Vice Presidential Debate, Pence Revived An Anti-Choice Myth To Attack Clinton’s Support For Reproductive Rights

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    During the October 4 vice presidential debate, Republican nominee Mike Pence smeared Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s positions on reproductive rights. While Pence falsely alleged that Clinton’s position on abortion was extreme, Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine pointed out that Clinton “support[s] the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience and make their own decision about pregnancy.”